When I started working on this column, I never thought that I would get this far. And no it wasn't because I thought I would die or be forced into rehab, but because I simply never imaged there was this much to say. This being the 104th Drink of the Week column, the mathematical two year mark, I thought I would talk about the one thing that everyone asks about: the hangovers.
While I wouldn't consider myself a role model of restraint, nor a cautionary tale of excess, a conservative estimate is that for this alone I've had some 520 different cocktails. Yes, sometimes, either guided by a bad influence, a serious miscalculation, or simply forgetting to eat before tasting, I've ended up hungover. Some light, some serious, but all soothed by one thing: brunch.
Here's my guide to my favorite brunch places, arranged by severity of hangover, lightest to most serious. All of these spots boast a couple of important qualities to be aware of: they all have great cocktails, fantastic food, and no unreasonable two-hour wait. When you feel shitty, the last thing you want to do is wait around for two fucking hours.
So you had a couple of beers or cocktails after work and while you never really felt drunk, you wake up with a small tinge of a hangover: mild dry mouth, a slight headache, but nothing really more. Hopscotch in Oakland is a perfect choice.
The petite space is bright and sunny, off the main drag just enough to keep the noise and traffic away and the experience relaxed.
The menu has their famous First Base Burger ($14, house ground chuck, griddled beef tongue, sesame aioli, Kennebec potato chips), but my choice is the Soy Braised Pork Belly Benedict ($15, toasted baguette, jidori eggs, miso hollandaise sauce) with what is one of the best variations of a French 75 and Mimosa, the Oakland 75 ($12, sparkling wine, gin, orange and grapefruit juices, housemade grenadine).
Don't miss out on the dessert, especially the wonderfully textural experience that is the Adzuki Bean Mochi ($8, coffee jelly, mascarpone coffee cream) with the Wide Eyed ($9, iced chicory coffee, bourbon, sweet milk) that is one of the best coffee cocktails around.
If you wake up with a more severe version of the after-work drinking hangover (maybe it wasn't a good idea to do shots before jumping on the Muni bus home), then Maven is your spot for relief. The Death in the Afternoon ($11, sparkling wine, absinthe sorbet) calms your pain immediately, and the Maven Julius ($6, orange, milk, vanilla, malt) is like the mall treat, but better, especially if you upgrade for $3 more and add a shot of their bourbon.
On the food side, the Smoked Trout Salad ($13, ravigote dressing, rye croutons, rye creme fraiche, cippollini onions) doesn't sound like hangover food, but the chopped egg in the dressing and tender and fresh tasting trout make it substantial and fortifying. On the sweet side, the Bread Pudding French Toast ($12, fig, walnut, maple syrup, vanilla creme fraiche) is rich, ethereal in its lightness, yet not overly sweet. If you get stuck like me, just order both. Don't forget to add the Billionaire's Bacon ($5) that comes glazed in a slightly spicy sauce -- it's hangover kryptonite.
Chances are good that 15 Romolo has been the source of some of your hangovers, but don't be afraid to return to the scene of the crime for brunch. 15 Romolo scores in the mid-range of the hangover pain scale, mostly because it's rather bright and cheery at brunch with the windows open on nice days (i.e., people can see you -- but they won't judge you). The best part is that your relief begins immediately with a complimentary Waffle Shot (waffle chunk in a maple syrup & bourbon cocktail). Now that the sweet treat seal has been broken, get the Sticky Bun ($6) that comes covered in pecans and caramel.
On a more savory bent? The Beetlejuice ($9, gin, beets, lemon, tomato, sesame oil, creme fraiche) is a cross between borscht soup and a Bloody Mary. It is deliciously strange, but a vibrant and effective hangover tonic. The Crumpet Benedict ($12, homemade crumpets, poached eggs, guanciale, arugula, hollandaise) puts a fun twist in the breakfast classic.
Chances are that if you drank enough, you didn't sleep very well, and you woke up with a banging headache. Exhausted and in pain, head over to the part of town where no one cares what you've been up to: the Tenderloin.
Jasper's new Bad-Ass Brunch is truth in advertising. The Michelada ($11, Del Maguey Vida, Jasper's bloody mary mix, tomato juice, Trumer Pilsner) here is one of the best versions around and a great alternative when you don't need something as high octane as a Bloody Mary. The Añejo Fizz ($10, Pueblo Anejo Tequila, coffee, orgeat, cream, soda water) is an awesome mix between a soda fountain-style drink and a fizz cocktail, with the necessary nutrients a hungover body needs, like coffee and tequila.
The standout breakfast dish here is on the sides menu: the Breakfast Kimchee ($3) is lively and fresh, sweetened with bits of fruit, and just enough acidity to absolve you of the fatty sins, like that thick slab of the Braised Bacon ($6) you're putting into your mouth. The Potato Sausage ($13, soft eggs, king trumpet bacon, wild mushroom, parsley sauce) is a veggie dish where a log of marble potatoes get cooked in a cloth, like a torchon, then griddled. That dish also comes with the best veggie "bacon" I've ever had: crisp, smoked slices of king trumpet mushrooms shatter like the real deal. Also the Sticky Buns ($5) here are outrageously good, and arrive warm swimming in a pool of buttery sticky sauce.
Oh boy, this is a bad one. The highest level of hangover possible is not fun. You probably feel the worst you've ever felt, probably still a little bit drunk, and definitely like you're going to die. Sitting, standing, and lying down all hurt. You feel like crawling into a cave and dying, and while it may not be a real cave, the Rock Bar in Bernal may be the closest you can get. Lucky for you, its also pretty awesome. Once inside the safety of the dark bar, order a Bloody Mary ($7) or a Bourbon Fizz to brace you steady.
At the end of the bar is an old-school phone from which you can order food from The Front Porch across the street. You may not feel like eating, but trust us, you need food. The Stoner Stack (fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, sausage gravy, biscuit) isn't just for stoners, but also for people like you. It is also like the greatest hits of the Front Porch in one mighty sandwich. Don't forget to order a paper sack of New Orleans Style Beignets ($5), designed by the citizens of a city who know a thing or two about bars and hangovers. Their voodoo can bring back the dead, and their deep fried pastries can break the spell of even the most cursed hangover.